Earlier Thursday, it was reported James Franklin had been offered Penn State’s head coaching job. A few hours later, CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported it’s a done deal, and Franklin will be the next coach of the Nittany Lions.
The initial reaction: This is absolutely a home run hire for Penn State. Franklin could’ve been a good fit at two of college football’s most powerful programs — USC and Texas — so landing him in State College appears to be a good omen for the direction of the program.
Franklin takes over an improving situation as the historic sanctions leveled against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal were eased last September, and could be eased again this fall. If the sanctions aren’t softened, Penn State will be allowed a full 85 scholarships in 2016 — two years before the original sanctions called for.
It appears possible, too, that Penn State could be eligible to play in a bowl and the Big Ten Championship as early as this year.
Franklin took over Vanderbilt in 2011 and led the Commodores to three consecutive bowls — this after the program only played in four bowl games in its previous 107 years. Vanderbilt finished in the top 25 for the first time since 1948 last season, and half of the program’s four nine-win seasons came under Franklin.
It wasn’t all pretty under Franklin’s watch in Nashville — four Vanderbilt players were charged over the summer with rape and a fifth (receiver Chris Boyd) pleaded guilty to attempting to cover up the incident. All five players were dismissed from the team.